Just as the weather starts to warm up and longer evenings make us want to be outdoors many students know there are other things that need to be done. This is also the time for burning the midnight oil and getting down to some serious exam revision. It helps to have an organized approach but if you’ve ever thought you could be making better use of your time; help could soon be at hand…

A new series of apps called WaitSuite developed by researchers at MIT’s computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab are designed to make sure you don’t squander any down time. The apps continually run on a mobile device and detect when a delay occurs for a Wi-Fi connection, emails to push through, a response to an instant message, an elevator to arrive or for a web page to load. They use these instances to flash information on the screen to reinforce your learning program.

According to MIT PhD student Carrie Cai, who leads the project (she's not the bored young lady pictured above, Ed.). “With stand-alone apps, it can be inconvenient to have to separately open them up to do a learning task, WaitSuite is embedded directly into your existing tasks, so that you can easily learn without leaving what you were already doing.”

The system currently supports a language learning program and users of the system’s instant messaging app ‘WaitChatter’ learned about four new words per day or 57 words over two weeks. Cai found that the system actually encouraged users to stay on-task and not wander off to check social media etc. A paper on the system will be presented at ACM’s CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems next month in Colorado.

It helps to break down revision into manageable bite-sized chunks but this is more like a whole series of nibbles. Some users of the system reported that they wanted more complex information from the system such as sentence structure and phrases but it remains to be seen if the system would be suitable.

I wonder, what do you do when your PC or smartphone is stealing your precious time, apparently doing nothing except showing a sandglass?

Head image credit: Wikimedia Commons